25 Years Later, Neopets Is Finally Going Back to Basics

Inverse speaks to the team behind the Neopets renaissance — and reveals some exciting details about the game’s upcoming 2024 plot and new features.

Lais Borges/Inverse; Neopets

Do you remember the old Flash-powered website Neopets? Because I do.

In the early 2000s, as a kid, I logged on to see my virtual pets, play minigames, and participate in an all-encompassing story that was taking over the website and the fictional realm of Neopia. First, Neopets released a comic strip depicting pirates fighting against mermaid-like pets. Players could then join either faction, enlisting in battle against pirates or mermaids to earn prizes such as trophies or chatroom avatars. For a kid who wasn’t allowed to own a console growing up, this was my Final Fantasy.

Neopets is now approaching its 25th anniversary (the site launched on Nov. 15, 1999) and it’s finally listening to fans and bringing back the reasons people fell in love with the site in the first place. It’s also slowly fixing broken parts of the site (after Adobe Flash’s demise, large swaths of Neopets became unplayable). Sitewide campaigns and limited-edition pets are making their long-awaited return. If you were ever one of those fans who pined after rare pets standing in cool poses but missed the boat two decades ago, a new chance has finally arrived.

“It feels like 2005 again,” Neopets art coordinator Ciara Slaton tells Inverse. “Weird to say, but that’s how Neopets feels right now.”

An exclusive look at the upcoming Neopets plot.


It’s an about-face for a company that announced in 2021 that it would build nonfungible tokens and court the cryptocurrency crowd, all statements that alienated loyal fans. The NFT initiative has since been paused. Now, Neopets is leaning into fandom. The company is returning to what works while offering fans the chance to buy merchandise they might actually want, including tarot cards, a trading card game, and an upcoming tabletop role-playing game.

The shift in strategy comes after decades of turbulent ownership changes and personnel turnover. In 2005, Viacom bought Neopets from its original creators, Adam and Donna Powell, for $160 million before selling it to JumpStart in 2014, which led to various technical issues. In 2017, Neopets was acquired by Chinese company Netdragon. But in 2023, it was spun off into an independent operation under the leadership of Neopets CEO Dominic Law.

“Our focus is to really fix the original classic site.”

“A big part of what led to the downfall of Neopets has been the lack of management focus and lack of public strategic push on really gluing everything together,” Law tells Inverse. “I originally joined Netdragon to help them evaluate what could be done and what’s the strategy for Neopets. And as part of that, I was able to convince senior management at Netdragon to give the team a shot, giving us one last chance to really revive the property.”

But it goes beyond Law. Current Neopets employees who grew up playing the game spoke frankly to Inverse about wanting to see changes over the years, only to realize that they would have to make those updates themselves. They also shared exclusive details on the next big Neopets update and what it means for the future of the 25-year-old pillar of early Internet culture.

Marvel-Level Ambitions

More of the upcoming Neopets plot.


The Neopets website contains a weird hodgepodge of arcade games, a fake stock market, and a pet pound. It also has a lot of potential. Neopets has 150 million registered users, many of whom have since left, according to Law. That’s the same figure as League of Legends, one of the world’s biggest PC games. And like League’s spinoffs and licensed books and shows, Neopets had ambitions beyond the PC.

It had real range. At its peak, Neopets had a game on the PlayStation 2, Neopets: The Darkest Faerie, made by the developers best known for Life Is Strange. There were Neopets plushies included in McDonalds Happy Meals and sold readily at department stores. There was even a Neopets magazine.

“You get to Marvel levels of complexity.”

The team is now gathering the bits of lore scattered across these disparate mediums, including entries written in the Neopedia and captions on trading cards, and trying to pull it together into one coherent narrative. Heading up this Herculean task is Dean Ravenola, the current creative director of Neopets and former editor of its in-game newspaper, The Neopian Times.

“You get to Marvel levels of complexity because you have almost 20 years of God-knows-how-many writers getting in there and messing around with different characters,” Ravenola tells Inverse. “We’re really trying to keep the heart of what was there before and just build off of that.”

As Ravenola revisits old Neopets lore, he and the team are filling in the blanks as they go along. The new plot is the staff’s chance to bring back old characters, develop them further, and flesh out parts of the world that have never been fully explored. For example, the Emperor of Shenkuu (a mystical Asia-inspired city) was never given an actual name.

Even more of the upcoming Neopets plot.


“Man never had a name. He’s been running a country for decades now,” Ravenola says. “You’d be surprised how many characters are left out in the dark like that.”

The Neopets story has historically been fairly complex, despite its origins as a website for children. Neopet’s 2024 plotline, which is set to feature the major leaders of Neopia, will draw inspiration from old campaigns but still be accessible for new players, Ravenola says. Unlike previous plots, the new story will also encompass many different Neopian lands, instead of just taking place in one location.

“We really want to have a world-altering event,” he says. “This one plot will serve as a catalyst so we can have even more major Neopian events happen down the road.”

The Pets We Thought We Lost

“We’ve just kind of been staring at them sadly for like 17 years,” Slaton says. “So I was pretty excited. It feels really surreal to see those on the website now.”


Slaton, the art coordinator, credits Neopets as the reason she started exploring digital art. She began visiting the site when she was in fourth grade. One day, while looking for employment, she stumbled upon a post on Neopets saying it was hiring.

“It literally felt like the universe carved out a perfect little role from me from my childhood,” Slaton says. Her burning pet project was to bring back unconverted pets (commonly referred to as UC pets). These pets have been so highly sought after that they spawned a black market, with many players reporting that their accounts were hacked or stolen to obtain UC pets.

Basically, in 2007, after Viacom bought Neopets, the site was monetized through selling clothes that your pets could wear. The images of the pets were each converted to become customizable, but a handful of pets had unique poses that the developers preserved. Those pets could not wear clothing. For decades, the only way for a user to acquire a UC pet was to have either been at the right place and right time 17 years ago or to trade for it. There was no other way to obtain unconverted pets. Demand greatly outweighed the limited supply.

“It feels really surreal to see those on the website now.”

While a plan to bring back these pets existed, it was not on the team’s priority list. This all changed after Slaton joined. And you can now use real money to buy any of these pets from a shop.

“I knew in my heart: This will actually make us a lot of money. This will make users very, very happy if it’s brought back. This is a core part of the website,” Slaton says. She personally pushed for UC pets to return, and then hunted down old artwork over the 20-year period and worked on making the quality consistent.

“We’ve just kind of been staring at them sadly for like 17 years,” Slaton says. “So I was pretty excited. It feels really surreal to see those on the website now.”

The new Neopets plot will be set across multiple lands.


If you’ve played Neopets long enough, there have been certain pets that just seemed unobtainable. For Slaton, it was the Faerie Hissi, a fairy-like serpent, and the Grey Draik, a gray dragon. One that I remember vividly is the slightly villainous MSP Poogle (MSP being short for Malevolent Sentient Plushie).

As part of a major new update, Neopets is rolling out new “unconverted” styles that players can use to customize their pets. These include two permanent new options called Alien and Jelly, along with the temporary additions of Baby, Maraquan, and Plushie. At the same time, developers are removing the Darigan, Faerie, and Grey styles as of March 26 — they’ll return eventually but not for “quite a while,” the company says.

Neopets players have mostly responded favorably to the changes. The general sense on the forums is one of optimism and hunger for more content, with a vocal minority complaining that the UC pets should have been kept exclusive. Slaton says she understands both perspectives.

“I did have several UC pets before we rolled out this design, so I was definitely part of the people that were like ‘Hey, my things are special. I spent like six years trading for this thing and now I can just buy it for like $15.’ There was definitely a lot of user concern about the specialness being taken away. It was a pretty thin line to tread on,” Slaton says.

As a compromise, users who originally had UC pets were awarded a trophy.

We Are So Back

“Our focus is to really fix the original classic site.”


For years, I would regularly log on to Neopets, especially every December, for the gift-giving Advent Calendar event. The participation incentives were too strong, and the nostalgia had its pull. But once Adobe Flash was discontinued, much of the site became unplayable, and I have taken my longest hiatus since the game was invented. While parts of the site still haven’t been fixed, and the small team may never bring rumored dream features like a school for pets to fruition, it does feel like Neopets is now saying “We are so back.”

In late March, Neopets will add a feature called NeoPass that lets users sign into all accounts, track progress across multiple games and platforms, and gain rewards and participate in community events. Law, the CEO, attended the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to announce this feature and highlight the company’s new focus on longtime fans. NeoPass is integrated with the decades-old fansite Sunnyneo, and Neopets has now enlisted loyalists as brand ambassadors.

It’s a total reversal from a few years ago, when Neopets was peddling NFTs and ignoring fans’ feedback that they just wanted the original site fixed.

“Our focus is to really fix the original classic site,” Law says. “We see that as the main foundation.”

This means that Neopets isn’t making its Nintendo Switch debut anytime soon, even though it teased that possibility to me several years ago, but it does mean the Neopets Team may be successfully turning the clock back to 2005.

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